Date of Degree

2-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Jeffrey Rosen

Advisor

Lissa Weinstein

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology

Keywords

embodied cognition, metaphor, psychoanalysis, Semantic Differential Scale, subjective experience, symbolization

Abstract

This study explores particular patterns of change that might unfold over the course of an intensive psychoanalytic treatment by mapping the forms of change that might take place in terms of a patient's subjective experience and the meaning that the patient attributes to it as reflected in the effort to express that experience in figurative language (i.e., metaphors). The data set was treatment session transcripts provided by P. A. Dewald over a period of 2 years and is partitioned by Dewald into three sequential phases.

Figurative language in general and metaphor in particular consists of essential forms of representation of subjective experience, as well as the transmitter of subjective experience in which clear markers of change in self-representation may be found. These markers are located and made visible within the patterns of a patient's metaphors involving the dimensions of valence, intensity, and agency. Metaphor permits access to two important dimensions of human affective experience with regard to feeling states: intensity and valence. Briefly, the dimension of valence asks, "What is the affective charge--positive or negative?" The dimension of intensity asks, "How strongly felt is the expressed emotion--high or low?" Examining metaphors for connotative meaning through use of Osgood's semantic differential scale, the dimension of agency was added in this study. This third dimension of affective experience, a primary ego function, puts emotions in the context of relationship dynamics (doer and done to). Agency asks, "Who is doing unto whom? Is the speaker active or passive?" Also, the dimension of meaning was added, asking, "Is this expression literal or figurative"?

Analysis across all four dimensions showed coherent patterns that revealed changes throughout the course of treatment. Particularly notable was the marked shift across all dimensions at the midpoint, corresponding to Dewald's middle phase of treatment and his theoretical notions of the significance of a transference neurosis. A particularly notable finding was that all shifts in subjective experience, even shifts that that could be seen as evidence of dysregulation, were achieved without loss of the capacity to symbolize, as evidenced by the consistently high figurativity scores along the meaning dimension. There was maintenance of high figurativity even under the press of sharp increases in negativity and intensity, which, from a psychodynamic perspective, could be suggestive of increased ego strength.

These findings underscore the usefulness of metaphor as a target of clinical listening.

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